Ac 26:1-32. Paul's Defense
of Himself before King Agrippa, Who
Pronounces Him Innocent, but Concludes That the Appeal to Cæsar
Must Be Carried Out.
This speech, though in substance the same as that
from the fortress stairs of Jerusalem (Ac 22:1-29), differs from it in being less directed
to meet the charge of apostasy from the Jewish faith, and giving more
enlarged views of his remarkable change and apostolic commission, and
the divine support under which he was enabled to brave the hostility of
1-3. Agrippa said—Being a king he
appears to have presided.
Paul stretched forth the hand—chained
to a soldier (Ac 26:29,
and see on Ac 12:6).
3. I know thee to be expert,
&c.—His father was zealous for the law, and he himself had
the office of president of the temple and its treasures, and the
appointment of the high priest [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.1.3].
hear me patiently—The idea of
"indulgently" is also conveyed.
4, 5. from my youth, which was at the first
… at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the
beginning—plainly showing that he received his education,
even from early youth, at Jerusalem. See on Ac
5. if they would—"were willing to"
testify—but this, of course, they were
not, it being a strong point in his favor.
after the most straitest—"the
sect—as the Pharisees confessedly
were. This was said to meet the charge, that as a Hellenistic Jew he
had contracted among the heathen lax ideas of Jewish peculiarities.
6, 7. I … am judged for the hope of the
promise made … to our fathers—"for believing that the
promise of Messiah, the Hope of the Church (Ac 13:32;
28:20) has been fulfilled in
Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead."
7. Unto which promise—the fulfilment of
our twelve tribes—(Jas 1:1; and see on Lu
instantly—"intently"; see on Ac 12:5.
serving God—in the sense of
religious worship; on "ministered," see on Ac
day and night, hope to come—The
apostle rises into language as catholic as the
thought—representing his despised nation, all scattered thought
it now was, as twelve great branches of one ancient stem, in all places
of their dispersion offering to the God of their fathers one unbroken
worship, reposing on one great "promise" made of old unto their
fathers, and sustained by one "hope" of "coming" to its fulfilment; the
single point of difference between him and his countrymen, and the one
cause of all their virulence against him, being, that his hope had
found rest in One already come, while theirs still pointed to the
For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am
accused of the Jews—"I am accused of Jews, O king" (so the
true reading appears to be); of all quarters the most surprising for
such a charge to come from. The charge of sedition is not so
much as alluded to throughout this speech. It was indeed a mere
8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible
… that God should raise the dead?—rather, "Why is it
judged a thing incredible if God raises the dead?" the case being
viewed as an accomplished fact. No one dared to call in question
the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, which
proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God; the only way of
getting rid of it, therefore, was to pronounce it incredible. But
why, asks the apostle, is it so judged? Leaving this
pregnant question to find its answer in the breasts of his audience, he
now passes to his personal history.
9-15. (See on Ac 9:1,
&c.; and compare Ac 22:4,
16-18. But rise, &c.—Here the
apostle appears to condense into one statement various sayings of his
Lord to him in visions at different times, in order to present at one
view the grandeur of the commission with which his Master had clothed
a minister … both of these things which
thou hast seen—putting him on a footing with those
"eye-witnesses and ministers of the word" mentioned in Lu 1:2.
and of those in which I will appear to
thee—referring to visions he was thereafter to be favored
with; such as Ac 18:9, 10; 22:17-21;
23:11; 2Co 12:1-10, &c.
17. Delivering thee from the people—the
and from the Gentiles—He was
all along the object of Jewish malignity, and was at that moment in the
hands of the Gentiles; yet he calmly reposes on his Master's assurances
of deliverance from both, at the same time taking all precautions for
safety and vindicating all his legal rights.
unto whom now I send thee—The emphatic
"I" here denotes the authority of the Sender [Bengel].
18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from
darkness to light—rather, "that they may turn" (as in Ac 26:20), that is, as the effect of their
eyes being opened. The whole passage leans upon Isa 61:1 (Lu 4:18).
and from the power of Satan—Note the
connection here between being "turned from darkness" and "from the
power of Satan," whose whole power over men lies in keeping them in
the dark: hence he is called "the ruler of the darkness of this
world." See on 2Co 4:4.
that they may receive forgiveness … and
inheritance among the sanctified by faith that is in
me—Note: Faith is here made the instrument of
salvation at once in its first stage, forgiveness, and its last,
admission to the home of the sanctified; and the faith which
introduces the soul to all this is emphatically declared by the
glorified Redeemer to rest upon Himself—"FAITH, even THAT WHICH IS IN
Me." And who that believes this can refrain from casting his
crown before Him or resist offering Him supreme worship?
19-21. Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not
disobedient unto the heavenly vision—This musical and
elevated strain, which carries the reader along with it, and doubtless
did the hearers, bespeaks the lofty region of thought and feeling to
which the apostle had risen while rehearsing his Master's
communications to him from heaven.
20. showed … to them of Damascus, and at
Jerusalem—omitting Arabia; because, beginning with the Jews,
his object was to mention first the places where his former hatred of
the name of Christ was best known: the mention of the Gentiles, so
unpalatable to his audience, is reserved to the last.
repent and return to God, and do works meet for
repentance—a brief description of conversion and its proper
fruits, suggested, probably, by the Baptist's teaching (Lu 3:7, 8).
22, 23. having obtained
from God—"that [which cometh] from
I continue—"stand," "hold my
unto this day, witnessing,
&c.—that is, This life of mine, so marvellously preserved, in
spite of all the plots against it, is upheld for the Gospel's sake;
therefore I "witnessed," &c.
23. That Christ should suffer,
&c.—The construction of this sentence implies that in regard
to the question "whether the Messiah is a suffering one, and whether,
rising first from the dead, he should show light to the (Jewish) people
and to the Gentiles," he had only said what the prophets and Moses said
24. Festus said with a loud
voice—surprised and bewildered.
Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning
doth make thee mad—"is turning thy head." The union of
flowing Greek, deep acquaintance with the sacred writings of his
nation, reference to a resurrection and other doctrines to a Roman
utterly unintelligible, and, above all, lofty religious earnestness, so
strange to the cultivated, cold-hearted skeptics of that day—may
account for this sudden exclamation.
25, 26. I am not mad, most noble Festus, but,
&c.—Can anything surpass this reply, for readiness,
self-possession, calm dignity? Every word of it refuted the rude
charge, though Festus, probably, did not intend to hurt the prisoner's
26. the king knoweth, &c.—(See on Ac 26:1-3).
27-29. believest thou the prophets? I know that
thou believest—The courage and confidence here shown
proceeded from a vivid persuasion of Agrippa's knowledge of the
facts and faith in the predictions which they verified;
and the king's reply is the highest testimony to the correctness of
these presumptions and the immense power of such bold yet courteous
appeals to conscience.
28. Almost—or, "in a little time."
thou persuadest me to be a
Christian—Most modern interpreters think the ordinary
translation inadmissible, and take the meaning to be, "Thou thinkest to
make me with little persuasion (or small trouble) a
Christian"—but I am not to be so easily turned. But the apostle's
reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our
authorized version, which is that adopted by Chrysostom and some of the best scholars since. The
objection on which so much stress is laid, that the word "Christian"
was at that time only a term of contempt, has no force except on the
other side; for taking it in that view, the sense is, "Thou wilt soon
have me one of that despised sect."
29. I would to God, &c.—What
unequalled magnanimity does this speech breathe! Only his Master ever
towered above this.
not only … almost … but
altogether—or, "whether soon or late," or "with little or
except these bonds—doubtless holding
up his two chained hands (see on Ac 12:6): which
in closing such a noble utterance must have had an electrical
30-32. when he had thus spoken, the king
rose—not over-easy, we may be sure.
32. This man might have been set at liberty if he
had not appealed to Cæsar—It would seem from this that
such appeals, once made, behooved to be carried out.